As an example, every hospital in the state is facing workforce shortages, and rates for traveling ICU nurses now exceed $300 an hour (that extrapolates to an annual expense of more than $600,000). Not only is this simply unsustainable for the long haul, but it’s even harder to stomach knowing that tens of billions in federal relief earmarked specifically to help hospitals weather this unprecedented storm remains unspent.
All told, California’s hospitals lost an estimated $8 billion in 2020 (even when factoring in federal relief) and are projected to lose another $2 billion in 2021. This while more than $25 billion sits on the sidelines.
A report from the Urban Institute released in late October sheds further light on the issue:
“… more than a year and a half after Congress first approved provider relief funding, billions of fund dollars have yet to be spent … All told, we estimate $26.8 billion remains in the fund as of October 2021,” the report states. “… the US continues to face large numbers of COVID-19 cases … [and] policymakers have an opportunity to consider how best to target remaining relief funds to health care providers who were hardest hit by the pandemic and continue to have the greatest needs.”
In other words, as hospitals continue to grind this out, relief that has already been approved remains out of grasp for those in need. That must change, and it’s vital that these funds be disbursed both much faster and much more equitably than it has in the past. Funds spent to date have not been fairly distributed to areas hardest hit, despite California having endured some of the highest caseloads in the nation.
CHA, alongside our partners at the American Hospital Association, has been engaged with members of the state’s congressional delegation, as well as representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in efforts to expedite the release of these funds, and late last month, the Health Resources and Services Administration extended the deadline to Nov. 3 to apply for the upcoming distribution of $25.5 billion in Phase 4 Provider Relief Fund and American Rescue Plan rural distributions.
We will continue to work with our federal representatives to shake loose these vital resources, and to make sure they understand that these dollars will only go so far given the magnitude of this crisis and the deep wound it has inflicted on America’s health care system.